Tag Archives: adrienne barbeau

The New Batman Adventures – “Cult of the Cat”

cult of the catEpisode Number:  15 (100)

Original Air Date:  September 18, 1998

Directed by:  Butch Lukic

Written by:  Paul Dini, Stan Berkowitz

First Appearance:  Thomas Blake

For the one-hundredth episode of Batman:  The Animated Series we’re getting a special team-up. As Batman has spent much of this season working alongside the likes of Batgirl and Robin, this episode will feature neither and at his side will be the seductive rogue, Catwoman (Adrienne Barbeau). Catwoman started off as a thief with a heart of gold in the first iteration of this show, but by its conclusion she had returned to her roots as just a thief with a fixation on cat-themed jewels and artwork. In The New Batman Adventures she has held onto that while sporting a new all black costume and matching black hair. In “You Scratch My Back,” she unsuccessfully tried to drive a wedge between Batman and Nightwing, but all that got her was another trip to jail. She’s out, and how she got out is a mystery, and up to her old tricks once again. Only this time she gets in a little over her head.

The episode begins with Catwoman fleeing someone through a hedge maze. She has just stolen a golden cat idol and seems quite pleased with herself, but she’s made a few new enemies in the process. Her pursuers basically resemble ninjas, only their all black attire includes cute little cat ears on top of their masks. They don’t look particularly fearsome, but they make up for that with weaponry. They carry fully-automatic guns and also sport claws that function just like Marvel hero Wolverine’s, they even pop-out with a little “snikt” sound too.

ugly catwoman

Have I mentioned I really hate Catwoman’s redesign?

Catwoman does her best to avoid these individuals, but their affection for cats goes beyond their costumes and artwork as they also employ a big ass panther. Catwoman comes face to face with the big cat in what would normally be an uncomfortable situation, but not for Catwoman. She sweet talks the feline and it soon abandons her to go after one of the cat-ninjas.

cat cult

Catwoman has some Wolverine-like problems in this one.

Catwoman appears to be home free as she’s made it out of the compound and into the city, but gunfire soon drives her from the safety of Gotham’s buildings down to the street where she winds up surrounded. Deciding that living is better than possessing a priceless artifact, Catwoman offers to return the statue, but one of the ninja informs her the statue has been defiled now and only her blood can erase that. He menacingly does a Wolverine pose as Catwoman seems to shrug off the threat and returns to fleeing.

catwoman batmobile

There are worse things one could find hiding in their car.

Elsewhere, Batman is doing his usual thing and has some crooks suspended from a street light ready for Gotham PD to come pick them up. He heads for the Batmobile and opens it up and is surprised to find a lounging Catwoman inside. She is her usual playful self while Batman plays the role of the stiff and drives off with Catwoman riding shotgun. She tells him she needs some help dealing with a problem, but Batman would rather take her to prison to ride out the heat. Some gunfire on the roof of the Batmobile indicates the severity of Catwoman’s predicament. Batman agrees to help her out, but only if she agrees to surrender everything she’s stolen. Catwoman is unwilling to make such a commitment, but Batman coaxes it out of her by slowing down the Batmobile.

The duo escape the cat people and make it to Catwoman’s hideout which appears to be a cat food factory. She’s got a computer set up inside and Batman uses it to show her just who wants her dead. It’s some cat cult which traces its roots back to ancient Egypt. They won’t rest until she’s dead. Catwoman seems unimpressed, but a red dot flashes across her head forcing Batman to pull her to safety. With the cultists descending upon the factory, Catwoman leads Batman to a way out via a furnace which is connected to a smokestack. Batman fires a grappling hook to escape, while Catwoman elects to use her claws to scale the brick wall. As she does so, Batman slowly retracts his rope to stay alongside her – how cute.

batman catwoman smokestack

Maybe next time Catwoman won’t be so chatty when trying to escape.

The cultists break into the factory and rather easily figure out where their prey went, despite Catwoman thinking they’d never guess. One of the cultists orders another to turn on the gas and fire up the furnace. They do so, and Batman is forced to grab Catwoman to speed up their escape. As they emerge from the smokestack, the explosion causes Batman to lose Catwoman. He recovers on the roof and looks down to see the cultists placing an unconscious Catwoman on one of their motorcycles. They take off, save for one, who looks up to see Batman descending upon him which is where the episode cuts to commercial. I cannot recall another episode that cuts to commercial with Batman on the attack like that, usually that’s a play reserved for the villains.

Catwoman wakes up to find herself chained to an altar. Her captor emerges and we meet Thomas Blake (Scott Cleverdon), the leader of this cult. In the comics, Black is the villain known as Catman because every gendered hero and villain needs an opposite. Here he doesn’t appear to go by that name, but since he wears one of those dorky cat ninja suits I suppose the intent is there. Blake seems to admire Catwoman a bit, while a nameless female cultist (Tasia Valenza) clearly does not. She thinks they should dispose of the thief, though that doesn’t phase Catwoman. What does bother her is when the woman refers to her as a common thief which Catwoman corrects. Despite the protests of this woman, Blake thinks Catwoman can be converted to their side given her affection for the feline species and Catwoman is happy to go along with this.

female cultist

I bet you didn’t know X-23’s first appearance was in a DC cartoon.

At the Batcave, the cultist Martin (Jim Piddock) wakes up on a ledge. Batman’s taunting voice booms from some nearby speakers demanding answers. Martin keeps quiet, causing Batman to share his favorite animal with the cat-lover. I’m assuming you can guess what that is. Batman’s deployed bats cause Martin to fall, but a grappling hook snares him by the ankle to prevent certain death. It’s at this point that Martin agrees to cooperate.

Back at the cult, Catwoman is shown to her quarters. It’s a spacious room that’s well-decorated. Blake seems interested in getting some alone time with Catwoman, but she indicates that she needs some rest and he takes his leave. Catwoman then grabs a pillowcase and starts filling it with some of the goods in the room, but she’s interrupted when Batman shows up. Batman wants to get her out of there, but Selina insists she’s got it under control. When he notices she’s casing the room, he starts to reprimand her and Catwoman goes into a dramatic routine where she plays the victim, crying that she needs help so that she’ll stop stealing. She even finishes the routine with a kiss, but Batman just seems irritated and asks if they can go now. And when he turns his back on her, Catwoman wallops him in the back of the head with her pillowcase full of goodies.

thomas blake

Thomas Blake has some Dr. Evil vibes.

Blake then comes storming in with some other cult members. He heard the commotion and is surprised to find an unconscious Batman on his floor. Catwoman explains what happened, and Blake is pleased. Telling her they need blood for their ritual, he orders his men to take Batman downstairs. Catwoman is confused and inquires about her own initiation and Blake says that won’t be necessary now claiming she’s proven her loyalty by supplying Batman. When she asks what will happen to him, Blake is coy and simply remarks that she’ll see.

Batman wakes up in a pit. It’s like a small-scale gladiator arena and the cultists are able to look down on him. Catwoman has swiped the seat of the female cultist who dislikes her, which seems to please Blake. Blake taunts Batman by displaying the caped crusader’s utility belt. He then introduces Batman’s opponent, a rather large genetically engineered saber-toothed cat.

catwoman and sabre

She has a way with cats, big and small.

We’ve seen Batman dispatch of sharks, alligators, and other wildlife before, so this doesn’t seem that bad, but evidently I’m wrong. The cat lays into Batman tearing up his costume while exerting its dominance. It’s enough that Catwoman does the predictable thing and jumps in to help her sometimes foe. Batman is able to get on top of the beast, and with Catwoman’s help, steers it into a column which gets smashed up pretty well. The beast then gets in Catwoman’s face, but just like before, Catwoman is able to seemingly tame the critter and it licks her. At Catwoman’s command, it jumps out of the pit to go after the cultists, forcing them to run. Catwoman asks Batman for help in getting out of the pit, but he’s not in a trusting mood. She insists she’s trustworthy and that once out she’ll help him out and Batman is forced to go along with it. After he gives her a boost out, the camera lingers on Batman just long enough to put doubt into his mind, before a rope comes dangling down.

beat up Batman

This is quite possibly the most beat up we’ve seen Batman get in this series.

With Batman free from the pit, the two make a run for it, but Blake jumps out from behind some cover and slashes at Batman’s back with those Wolverine claws. Batman turns and we can see his costume has been ripped open, but no blood has been spilled. He then engages with Blake while the female cultist emerges with a torch and tries to attack Catwoman. She’s able to deftly parry the cultist causing her to plummet into the pit and fall unconscious. Batman is also able to get the upper hand against Blake, but the big old cat from earlier re-emerges. Batman looks around and can’t find Catwoman, so he instead uses a commanding voice to halt the beast. Whether it worked or not is hard to say, but the cat turns its attention on Blake. The two fall back into the pit with the cat landing on Blake. Batman looks down as the two slip into unconsciousness.

batman gordon cat cult

Another hard night’s work has come to an end.

The police are then shown rounding up the other cult members while Blake is being wheeled around on a stretcher hooked up to a ventilator. Batman is seated in the back of an ambulance all bandaged up as Commissioner Gordon (Bob Hastings) returns his belt. Gordon remarks that the big cat is going to the zoo while the cult members are off to jail. Batman supposes there’s enough stolen goods in the place to convict them, and Gordon agrees but also remarks that there’s less in there than would be expected. Batman reacts subtly to this statement indicating he knows why the haul may be a bit light. We then cut to Paris, and Selina Kyle is shown surrounded by jewels as she presents her beloved cat Isis with a couple of dinner choices. She stretches out on her large bed as she remarks to Isis that being on the side of the virtuous has its perks.

And that is the last we’ll see of Catwoman in this one. She’ll resurface in the short “Chase Me” which is basically just a fun little piece of animation that’s free of dialogue. It’s an interesting exit for Catwoman as she’s one of the rare villains who seemingly got away with one and is leading a happy life of crime far from Gotham. She has a hard to shake compulsion though so it’s safe to assume she’ll one day return to Gotham to mess with Batman and his allies, we just won’t be there to see it. It closes the book on her character though, which went from villain to anti-hero back to villain again. The ending here with her musing about being an ally to the law in a small way I suppose opens the door to assuming she might return to the anti-hero persona, but I think it’s just the playful side of her character coming out. She’s a thief and proud of it and nothing is going to change that. I definitely prefer the playful thief to the directionless Selina we saw for much of BTAS, and if any villain was going to get away, it makes sense for it to be Catwoman.

“Cult of the Cat” is an entertaining team-up between Batman and Catwoman that remains logical throughout. Batman never really allows himself to get duped by Catwoman, though he does make the mistake of turning his back to her in that one scene. Even though he gets her to agree to his terms in order to assist her, I never got the impression he expected her to actually abide by such. Had he been able to keep better track of her during his fight with Blake, I get the impression he would have either just arrested her or tailed her to her hideout where the goods are kept. It could have been interesting seeing Batman deceive Catwoman, but he basically already did that in her last appearance so it may have felt too similar.

As for Blake and the others, we’ll never see them again either. The cat cult was pretty silly, but not offensively so. I’m surprised their claws were made so similar to Wolverine’s as it’s impossible to separate the two, though ultimately it matters little. The female cultist is revealed at the end of the initial chase sequence and when she pulls off her mask I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to know who she is. She resembles Red Claw a bit, which made it more confusing, but in the end she’s a nobody. When she’s sporting those claws though she’s a dead-ringer for Marvel’s X-23 character, so much so that I’d have called her a rip-off if she didn’t predate that character’s first appearance by several years.

selina kyle spoils

This is the last we’ll see of Selina in the main series. I think she did all right for herself in the end.

“Cult of the Cat” may be remembered for being Catwoman’s final appearance, but it’s also quietly a contender for best Catwoman episode. Her episodes are not the greatest, so the competition is surprisingly light. I think I prefer “You Scratch My Back” to this one though, and she’s actually pretty fun in “Batgirl Returns.” Obviously, if we consider a Catwoman episode to being any episode in which she makes an appearance then the clear answer is “Almost Got ‘Im,” but I don’t think of that as a Catwoman episode. Given this one is even in the discussion though makes it a worthy exit for the femme fatale. I think the show could have done more with the character which is why I’ll miss her.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that this is not only the 100th episode of Batman but also post number 600 for this blog. If you actually count all of the published entries you would find it totals less than 600, but that’s because you’re not reading them in the order written. A weekly Batman post plus 25 days of Christmas coming in December means I have to schedule things in advance. And while I initially planned on doing something special to mark the occasion of 600 blog entries part of me felt it made sense for it to be a Batman post given the presence the show has had on this blog for over two years now. And then when I saw it matched up with the 100th episode of the show it became a no-brainer, so thanks to those who have read and continue to read these things. I do it for fun and welcome any who want to take this journey with me.


The New Batman Adventures – “You Scratch My Back”

you scratch my backEpisode Number:  5 (90)

Original Air Date:  November 15, 1997

Directed by:  Butch Lukic

Written by:  Hilary J. Bader

First Appearance:  Nightwing

After briefly checking in with Dick Grayson (Loren Lester) at the end of the second episode we now get the official introduction of Nightwing, Grayson’s new alter-ego. We’re still going to have to wait to find out what happened to cause the former Boy Wonder to break away from his mentor, but at least we’ll get a look at how Nightwing operates. We’ll also be reintroduced to a certain femme fatale in the form of Catwoman (Adrienne Barbeau). This episode is going to play up the tension that exists between Batman and Nightwing as well as the tension between he and his old adversary. Catwoman is going to be happy to squeeze her way in between the two. Also caught in the middle, but less eager to be, is Batgirl who is the frustrated bystander who just wants to see everyone get along.

water tower

Some people just always like to invite themselves to the party.

The episode opens with Nightwing on a water tower scoping out some shipping docks. He apparently expects something to go down with some gun smugglers, and Batman and Batgirl soon arrive on the scene. Nightwing is not particularly happy to see them, rebuffing Batgirl’s friendly vibes while being rather straight with Batman. Once a forklift is deployed, Nightwing jumps into action. His suit is similar to a wing suit or the classic Spider-Man costume with the webbed under-arm portions. He glides in effortlessly, which looks ridiculous because the wings are far too small. Also, he now has a mullet. Aside from that, the simple black suit with blue logo and domino mask looks fine, better than that garish old Robin costume. In addition to the new threads he also has his own theme song which feels bright and upbeat (similar to Superman’s) which stands in contrast with Batman’s moody tunes. It’s a nice touch, but it almost feels corny. It’s a tad overused in this episode and I hope it’s not something that’s repeated a lot.

Nightwing gets the drop on the bad dudes and gets to work. He demonstrates he’s still plenty good at this crime fighting thing, and even shows off some new shurikens (Wing-a-rangs? Night-a-rangs?) of his own making. He tangles with one goon in a forklift, impossibly dodging bullets and depositing said forklift into the harbor. As he dusts himself off he fails to notice another thug closing in on him from behind with ill intentions. Batgirl swings in for the save, but Nightwing hardly seems grateful for the help. The two have a little argument that’s interrupted by a fleeing thug. He runs among some stacked shipping crates and finds Batman just casually leaning against some of the crates. He ignores the thug, who seems shocked, but eventually continues on his way.

batman inaction

Must be his night off.

Nightwing comes through the same way and seems irritated with Batman’s inaction, though he was recently agitated with Batgirl for the opposite. Batman gestures which way the perp ran with a “He’s all yours,” and Nightwing goes after him. Before he gets to him he can hear a commotion. Nightwing races around the corner to find the crook bound and gagged, and the person responsible is Catwoman. Sporting a new all black attire, Catwoman immediately acts cozy with the young Nightwing by blowing a kiss his way and goes into her backflip routine as she fades from view leaving Nightwing to wonder what that was all about.

img_4161

Nice crib, Dick.

The next night, Barbara pays Dick a visit at his loft to warn him not to trust Catwoman. Surprisingly, she never brings up her prior partnership with the same villain. Dick’s loft is rather fancy, making me wonder what he ended up doing for work or if this is all Wayne money. It has a dojo-like vibe to it as well, suggesting maybe Dick has sought out some teachings similar to what Bruce did before becoming Batman. Anyways, he has a cool motorcycle now and when Barbara points out there’s room for two on that bike he declines leaving her to lock-up.

catwomans affection

Catwoman knows how to get close to a man.

Seeking to follow a lead on the same drug-smuggling ring, Nightwing arrives in position where he can spy on a penthouse. Catwoman soon arrives and reveals she knows a thing or two about these guys. The guy they’re after goes by the name of Ricky the Hook (Sal Lopez) on account of his hook hand. Nightwing is reluctant to engage her, but she insists she’s on his side. When Nightwing allows for a slight opening in this job, thanks to some distractingly flirtatious behavior on the part of Catwoman, she takes it and the lead and heads over to the penthouse forcing Nightwing to pursue.

Rick the Hook

Enrique El Gancho, aka Rick the Hook.

The two infiltrate the penthouse and uncover some shipping schedules. As Nightwing downloads the information, he’s confronted by The Hook and some of his men. Worse, Catwoman has apparently left him high and dry. As The Hook confronts an irritated Nightwing though, Catwoman reappears to take out the hired help. As The Hook reels from the surprise appearance of the feline, Nightwing takes the opportunity to hit the man as hard as he can in the face. It seems to only stun him. Catwoman takes a whack at taking him down as well, but to similar results. The gunmen gather themselves and force the two to flee. They leap through a skylight and into an indoor pool. The gunmen fire from their vantage point down into it forcing Nightwing to take out the lights allowing for their eventual escape, but not before they engage in some slight slapstick by using pool equipment on the thugs.

Now out of danger, the unlikely partners go over what just happened. Catwoman pushes the idea of the two teaming up, and this time Nightwing is receptive to the proposal. This job clearly requires more than one person, and maybe he’s being seduced by Catwoman’s innate charms. Nearby though, Batman is watching and listening and he doesn’t look too happy.

Sometime later, or another day, Selina Kyle is lounging in her apartment amongst her cats. She’s apparently done well for herself since returning to a life of crime as this apartment appears to be every bit as nice as her old one. She’s also cut her hair short and dyed it black, in keeping with her comic look at the time (the prior blonde look was likely done to resemble Michelle Pfeiffer). Batman soon appears in her apartment and this isn’t a friendly visit. He warns Selina to stay away from Nightwing. She seems amused and opines that the Man Wonder can make his own decisions, implying that it must be common knowledge that Robin has grown up and transitioned to this Nightwing persona. Because drama demands it, Nightwing too shows up. He’s not at all pleased to see Batman sticking his nose in his business, but rather than get into an argument, Batman chooses to leave quietly. As he does, Nightwing looks up to see Batgirl watching and a brief, pained, expression crosses his face as she too departs.

Selina Kyle Short Hair

Selina is feeling frisky after ditching the bat.

With him gone, Nightwing informs Selina that he analyzed the files they took from Ricky the Hook and knows where the next big shipment will take place, and that it’s to take place tonight. Selina seems pleased and moves in closer to Nightwing causing him to stop her. It’s not that he’s rejecting the affectionate advance, but he’s spotted something:  a bat-shaped tracking device on Selina’s whip.

img_4164

A last ditch effort to keep the Man Wonder on her side.

Now in costume, Catwoman releases her cat Isis into the Gotham night. And on her collar is Batman’s tracking device. He and Batgirl are shown in the Batmobile falling for the ruse, as Catwoman and Nightwing head out to their rendezvous spot with some gun smugglers. Once they arrive at the docks, the two slip onto a ship and start nosing around the shipping containers. Catwoman seems especially eager, and Nightwing will soon learn why. As Nightwing breaks into some crates, he finds a priceless artifact rather than guns. He finds more, and when he goes to share this information with Catwoman he finds she’s rather consumed with her own affairs. It seems that Catwoman was recently in South America and stole an item called the Cat’s Eye Emerald and stashed it on this boat in order to bring it back to Gotham. She’s busy smashing a bunch of statues until she eventually finds it. Nightwing is rightly angry with her, but Catwoman is prepared for this reaction. She tries to smooth things over with her womanly charms resorting to the tired old villain line of pointing out the money she’ll get for this emerald will allow them to go anywhere they want. She tries to seal the deal with a kiss, but Nightwing rebuffs her. Catwoman informs him he can’t blame her for trying, before quickly tripping him and using her whip to drop a cargo net on top of him.

Batman and Batgirl soon burst onto the scene. Batman frees Nightwing from the net, who brushes himself off to tell Batman his hunch was right and that Catwoman led them right to the emerald. Catwoman is surprised to learn the two played her for a fool. As she lets them know how she feels about being conned, The Hook and his men arrive forcing Batgirl to deploy some smoke grenades to allow the three to escape.

batman vs the hook

The fight you never knew you wanted.

With the smoke obscuring the vision of the gunners, the trio take out the goons with ease. Nightwing gestures to Ricky the Hook informing Batman he’s all for him while he pursues a fleeing Catwoman. The two trade blows with Ricky the Hook even drawing blood from Batman. He eventually gets the upper hand on the Dark Knight, but as he goes to deliver a killing blow with his hook, Batman blocks it with a nearby fire extinguisher. The foam inside the extinguisher gets in Hook’s eyes and he stumbles back getting his hook caught in some chains. This causes a large crate to release from above which crashes down on top of him. For a moment, it looks like he’s going to brush this off as well, but then he collapses in a heap.

From the ship’s deck, Nightwing spots Catwoman attempting to flee via motorboat. He glides after her, but she takes notice and begins firing a flare gun at him. He avoids the projectiles, and as he descends onto the boat Catwoman accidentally hits the vessel causing it to go up in flames. Worse, they’re speeding towards an ocean liner which for some reason has its prop exposed above water. Catwoman tries to drown Nightwing by shoving his head underwater over the side of the boat, which is quite a vicious turn for her, but Nightwing pulls himself back onto the boat. Catwoman is apparently unaware of the impending collision, as Nightwing grabs her and leaps from the boat as it smashes into the ocean liner. The resulting explosion was apparently enough to knock out Catwoman, but not Nightwing. As he clings to a piece of the former motorboat with Catwoman draped on it as well, Batgirl arrives with the Batboat to see if he needs a hand. Nightwing responds by telling her he’s always happy to have some help as the episode ends.

nightwing could use a hand

The explosion conveniently knocks out the bad guy while leaving the good guy fully conscious.

“You Scratch My Back” is an interesting episode because it reintroduces us to Dick Grayson by showing us that his relationship with Batman has become strained. And yet, by the end of it we’re left to wonder how much of that was real and how much was just show to keep Catwoman in the dark. It makes me wonder if the show was afraid to make them too confrontational and wanted to have it both ways:  a fraught relationship, but also a buddy ensemble. Nightwing was made to be so naive though when it came to Catwoman that it basically had to go this way or else the character would have instantly lost all credibility. It would be one thing if the younger Robin were duped into something like this by a villain, but for Nightwing to fall for it would be absurd.

dick and barbara photo

There appear to be some hard feelings in the past of Dick and Barbara.

The episode does not show any interest in revealing what caused the break-ups that occurred offscreen. We know things could get tense between Batman and Robin, but we don’t know if Dick just gradually distanced himself or if there was one thing that put him over the edge. Similarly, we don’t know what happened between he and Barbara. When we last saw the two together they were a couple, but now they’re not. While Dick is getting into costume, Barbara is shown looking at a picture of the two of them with a look of sadness on her face. And who is Dick’s barber? That hairstyle is brutal.

As for Selina, we can see she’s been living a life of crime and doing quite well for herself. She’s managed to become wealthy again without running afoul of Batman, as evidenced by the fact that she’s not in jail. Is she even living as Selina Kyle or has she adopted an alias? Her new look seems to be even more influenced by her appearance in Batman Returns as her costume is basically identical to the one present in that film, just without the stitching. There’s something very cartoonish about her head though that really takes away from the sex appeal she’s supposed to possess which ultimately hurts the character. Aside from that, I do like how she’s portrayed as she’s very physical and flirtatious which strikes me as very cat-like.

Overall, this is a rather fun story. Sure, it left me with some questions, but it does a solid enough job of not telegraphing the end. The conflict is largely kept to Batman, Nightwing, and Catwoman so it didn’t need an A-list villain to serve as the adversary. Ricky the Hook is at least a physical menace and he gives Batman a good brawl further showing how open to violence this series is. Batgirl is just along for the ride, mostly, and Tim Drake is sidelined which is fine as there’s plenty of characters here anyway. For director Butch Lukic, this is his first time in the big chair after being a storyboard artist for the previous series. He does a good job as the action pieces are well done and the many characters are utilized well. He’ll go on to direct four more episodes of this series, including the much beloved “Mad Love,” as well as many episodes of Batman Beyond.


Batman: The Animated Series – “Batgirl Returns”

batgirl returns cardEpisode Number:  85

Original Air Date:  November 12, 1994

Directed by:  Dan Riba

Written by:  Michael Reaves and Brynne Stephens

First Appearance(s):  None

We have reached the end of the series. Episode 85 is the last produced episode of Batman:  The Animated Series, though it aired as the 8th episode of the third season. It’s not surprising then that this wasn’t aired as the series finale since it’s missing a pretty important ingredient:  Batman. Yes, that’s right. For the first time in this show Batman is going to sit on the sidelines. There have been episodes with smaller doses of Batman in the past, but none where he was absent. Bruce Wayne has a brief appearance to explain his absence, but that’s it. There is some screen time for Batman, but it’s right at the beginning and is part of a dream sequence, so technically he’s in it, but technically he’s not at the same time.

This last episode of production season two brings us another fairly major return, and it’s Batgirl. We last saw Batgirl in the two-parter “Shadow of the Bat” in which she helped to clear her father, Commissioner Gordon, of criminal charges. She’s kept quiet since as Barbara returned to her life as a college student. The ending of the episode made me wonder if Bruce and Dick knew who was under the cowl of Batgirl, and if they did, they sure don’t act like it here. In fairness, Bruce doesn’t get to react much to her presence, but Robin will. It seems hard to believe that Batman, who is pretty damn good at this sort of thing, couldn’t figure out who Batgirl is. On the other hand, we’ve seen a lot of Robin in this season and he hasn’t always looked too sharp so I am able to at least go along with him not knowing, and Bruce is under no obligation to share. I am not at all surprised we’re getting another Batgirl episode as her first appearance was well received, as far as I know. It’s just a little surprising it was reserved for the last episode in the production schedule.

batman batgirl steamy

It makes sense that she wouldn’t be into Robin.

The episode begins in a darkened museum. Someone has their eyes set on stealing a jade cat statue, but Batman is there to stop them. He’s soon struck with a laser of some kind, and we see it’s being fired by The Penguin! Batman is pressed up against a wall as a playing card comes flying in. In comes Joker followed by Two-Face. Given the events of past episodes, it seems odd for these three to be working together again, but when you have a common foe I guess it’s easy to look past old grudges. When all hope appears lost, help arrives. It’s Batgirl! She drives the crooks away and races over to check on Batman. He’s injured as she helps him up. He says her name, but appears too groggy to say much more. Their eyes meet as their capes billow in the wind. From afar, we see their silhouettes in the moonlight as they lean in for a kiss.

The sound of Dick calling her name wakes Barbra Gordon (Melissa Gilbert) from her dream. She’s surrounded by textbooks and homework and looking a little annoyed that her lovely dream was interrupted like that. She heads over to the window, and surprisingly Dick is right outside it. The way his shouts sounded seemed to indicate that Barbara’s dorm was not at ground level, but his head is literally less than a foot below her window. She yells to him as well, which makes me think when these lines were recorded the direction was that they were yelling to each from a much higher vantage point for Barbara, making this scene rather awkward. Dick just wants to know if Barbara is willing to take a pizza break, but she says she can’t as she needs to ace these midterms or her dad will lock her up. Dick doesn’t put up a fight and leaves her to her studying mercifully putting an end to this exchange. As she heads back for her books, the newspaper is delivered and slid under her door. The front page is covering the theft of the jade cat statue, which seems to give Barbara an idea.

the cat vs the batgirl

Time to tango.

The university museum has been broken into by none other than Catwoman (Adrienee Barbeau). However, it appears she’s the second person to enter as the lock on the skylight was melted away. She drops inside to inspect the case where the cat statue once stood and is surprised to be met by Batgirl. Batgirl accuses Catwoman of returning to the scene of the crime, but Catwoman is quick to point out the methods utilized by the actual thief before demonstrating how she would have done it with her claws. The two exchange silly superhero banter with Batgirl insisting she tell her tale to the police (she’s so like Batman). Robin drops in to interrupt the two, and Catwoman uses the distraction to her advantage and escapes. As Robin grabs Batgirl to help him chase after Catwoman, he ignores her protests.

batgirl unconvinced

Batgirl is going to need some convincing.

On the rooftop, Catwoman uses a bola to entangle Robin and make her ultimate escape. Batgirl, knowing she didn’t steal the statue, lets her flee while Robin sarcastically remarks how much help she ended up being. She tries to tell him what she knows, but Robin isn’t listening. He tells her to stay out of his way and leaves. Some men…

The next day, as Barbara appears to be leaving the campus gym, she spies a cat-shaped card on a bulletin board addressed to “The Winged Mouse.” She reads it and finds an address and instructions to meet there tonight. Barbara does as she’s told, and that night Batgirl heads to the spot to find Catwoman waiting for her. Catwoman remarks she was impressed the prior night with Batgirl and proposes a team-up to find the real thief. Batgirl appears hesitant, but then naively agrees on the condition that if it turns out Catwoman is up to no good that she’ll turn herself in. Catwoman agrees, and the two shake hands forming their partnership.

At the Batcave, Robin is shown talking on the phone. He’s speaking with Bruce who is in France for an important meeting that he can’t bail on. He cautions Robin when dealing with Selina Kyle as she likes to play games. After their conversation ends, he openly remarks that he hopes Batgirl isn’t in over her head.

bat cat teamup

They’re basically the only two major female characters in this show so of course they have to team up.

Catwoman leads Batgirl to a dive bar called The Stacked Deck. Batgirl is disgusted to be there declaring it the sleaziest bar in Gotham, which is why Catwoman says they’re going to check it out. If anyone knows anything about that stolen statue, they’ll likely be in here. The two stroll in and the gathering of basically all men turn to admire the women. Catwoman narrows her focus on a guy who looks like a stereotypical scientist and begins interrogating him. This guys goes by the name of The Chemist (Scott Valentine), and Catwoman thinks he would know where the acid used in the robbery came from. He lists off a couple of possible locations in a hushed voice, one of which being the chemical plant that gave birth to The Joker, before making a run for it. The bar then erupts in violence forcing Batgirl and Catwoman to battle their way outside.

the chemist

If Hugo Strange combined with Professor Farnsworth you would end up with The Chemist.

Once there, Catwoman commandeers a motorcycle (really guys, why leave your keys in the ignition at a bar where criminals frequent?) and Batgirl jumps on the back of it. The two speed away just as the cops show up. One squad car goes after them and Catwoman leads them on a chase onto a freeway that’s still under construction. Conveniently, the overpass is complete except for a six-foot gap that the bike can easily clear, but a police car cannot.

bike escape

I’m legitimately surprised they were able to do this scene without helmets.

Catwoman declares she has a good idea who is behind the robbery and takes Batgirl to an old abandoned factory. Batgirl recognizes it as a building once belonging to Roland Daggett and it’s the same building where Clayface was born. Catwoman confirms this while also adding it’s the same place where a virus was developed that nearly killed her (“Cat Scratch Fever”). The two head inside and Catwoman easily locates the jade cat statue. Too easily, as soon a flood light clicks on and the two find themselves staring down the gun of Roland Daggett (Ed Asner) himself, along with some of his men.

captured by daggett

Nice of Daggett to save his first appearance of season two for the final episode.

Apparently not willing to risk getting shot, Catwoman and Batgirl are then shown with their hands bound and Daggett’s men around them. They’re on a catwalk which is running over some imposing looking vats of green, bubbly, acid. Daggett explains his legal fees relating to his last encounter with Batman have bankrupt him. He needs money from the sale of this cat statue to start life, and business, somewhere else and stealing it provided the perfect cover since everyone in Gotham would assume Catwoman was behind it. Batgirl then notices Catwoman is keeping them talking because she’s using one of her claws to cut through her restraints. Batgirl does the same and tries to guess at the death trap awaiting them. Daggett corrects her though:  there’s no trap, he’s just going to have his men shoot them. Before they can react, Robin swings in to take out some of Daggett’s goons. Catwoman then frees herself and goes after another while Batgirl is forced to fight with just her legs. Catwoman even tosses a man over the railing, but he lands on a pipe running over the acid bath, sparing himself a rather nasty end. Batgirl winds up in a precarious position when it looks like one of the crooks is going to toss her overboard, but Robin makes the save by cutting her restraints with a batarang which is enough for Batgirl. As the two congratulate each other, they realize Daggett and Catwoman are missing.

batgirl needs saving

It’s a bit annoying how often Batgirl needs saving, hopefully she improves for the next series.

Daggett, with the jade cat statue in hand, is shown running across a darkened catwalk. Catwoman calls out to him, and he spins and fires at shadows not realizing the voice came from above. She uses her whip to disarm Daggett before dropping in on him. She retrieves the cat statue and while regarding it Daggett finds a metal hook lying around and tries to take her out. She easily avoids the old man and lets him tumble over the railing catching his foot in a chain. As he dangles over the acid, Catwoman seems content to let him fall as payback for the whole virus thing. Batgirl arrives and uses the classic super hero line of “You’re just as bad as him if you let him go,” and Catwoman basically laughs her off and lets go. Batgirl makes the save by grabbing the chain, but is having a hard time hauling Daggett up which allows Catwoman to flee once again. Robin then shows up and the two pull Daggett to safety.

catwoman daggett

Yeah, he’s not getting away from her.

On the rooftop, Catwoman swings from building to building with the aid of her whip, but soon finds Batgirl on her tail. Batgirl uses a bola of her own to catch the cat burglar, and the two then have a little chat. Catwoman confesses that it was always her intention to steal the statue, causing Batgirl to remind her of their deal. Catwoman proposes the two team-up, but Batgirl is sticking with the law. The police arrive on the scene and Catwoman surprisingly agrees to the terms of the deal as she lets the arriving officers place her in handcuffs. While they lead her away she tells them Batgirl is innocent, which is apparently good enough for them.

robin bargirl celebrate

Robin with the premature celebration.

Batgirl and Robin observe as the two officers place Catwoman in their squad car. They take off while the two basically have a moment to congratulate each other again. As they watch the car speed away, it begins to swerve. Soon the doors open and both cops are tossed. They run over to help the officers, who rise to their feet and realize their guns are missing. Catwoman then yells from the car that she agreed she’d let the police take her, but she never said how far. As she takes off, Robin starts to go after her, but Batgirl grabs him by the cape insisting there will be another time. She must have been really certain there was going to be a season three!

And that’s how the series comes to an end, with Batgirl and Catwoman having a cheeky little romp through Gotham. Catwoman, due to her playful nature, is as good a villain as any for this type of story. She’s returned to her life of crime following the events of “Catwalk” (which would awkwardly air after this episode) so no explanation is needed for her ulterior motives. It’s interesting that this was the first chance for her to interact with Robin as one could see her using her feminine charms on him, but they have few interactions. The episode also serves as a curtain call for Roland Daggett, a pretty big player in season one who will never be seen again. I guess the in-universe explanation would be that since he’s no longer wealthy he couldn’t afford a good attorney to keep him out of prison this time.

batgirl returns pose

Batgirl may still be new at all of this, but she’s definitely got the poses figured out.

This is another directorial effort from Dan Riba, who was given an expanded role back when Dick Sebast left the show. Unlike the directors for the past two episodes, Riba will stay on for the next iteration of Batman. Joining him will be Dong Yang Animation which will animate all of the episodes of The New Batman Adventures save for five. This isn’t their best work as some of the animation seems a bit stiff. Perhaps it’s due to animating the more slight female characters as opposed to Batman. This is the final appearance of Melissa Gilbert as Barbara Gordon/Batgirl. She’ll be replaced by Mary Kay Bergman in Batman & Mr. Freeze:  SubZero and then by Tara Strong in The New Batman Adventures. This is also Dick Grayson’s last appearance as Robin in an episode of the show, though he’ll be in the upcoming movie.

As a series finale, “Batgirl Returns” is miscast, but it’s not a bad episode by any means. This is a fun, entertaining, reintroduction for Batgirl. She’s painfully naive throughout, but since she’s new at this I suppose I can overlook it. Robin and the police both overlooking Catwoman and her ability to escape are less forgivable as this episode really puts an exclamation point on how inept the Gotham PD is. And Robin, for that matter.

Even if the series finale isn’t what one would have expected, it doesn’t diminish what Batman:  The Animated Series meant for children’s cartoons and Batman as a whole. It’s the show that helped re-legitimize the character for a new generation which had grown up on reruns of the 1960s show. The show arguably gave us the best Batman (Kevin Conroy), the best Joker (Mark Hamill), and absolutely the best Mr. Freeze and Two-Face. When I decided to revisit the show in this format as a celebration of the show’s 25th anniversary there was some skepticism on my part. I didn’t think the show would hold up as well as it did. I knew “Heart of Ice” and other select episodes would be great still, but I was surprised to find that most of the episodes I didn’t remember fondly I ended up having a more positive reaction to this time around. There’s still a few duds, but by and large the show is very consistent and very entertaining. It gives me hope for The New Batman Adventures as I don’t have great memories of that show so I’m hoping I’ll like it more now than I have in the past. One thing I do know though is that it isn’t as good as the original two seasons. This is still my favorite portrayal of Batman, and I doubt that will ever change.


Batman: The Animated Series – “Catwalk”

Catwalk titleEpisode Number:  74

Original Air Date:  September 13, 1995

Directed by:  Boyd Kirkland

Written by:  Paul Dini

First Appearance(s):  None

 

Batman:  The Animated Series has done a great job of elevating some of Batman’s lesser known villains. It’s really a big part of the show’s legacy. And the well-established villains like Joker and Riddler did just fine as well. One notable exception though is Catwoman. Perhaps the most famous foil for the caped crusader not wearing clown makeup, Catwoman has struggled when finding herself on-screen. Her debut, which was the show’s broadcast premiere, “The Cat and Claw” established her character as a cat burglar with an animal rights activist bend. She stole to help fund her efforts there, and also for fun. She also instantly fell for Batman, who’s alter ego Bruce Wayne found himself infatuated with Selina Kyle, the alter ego of Catwoman – naturally. This dance played out over two episodes with Batman and Catwoman finding a common enemy in Red Claw before everything ended with Gotham saved, and Catwoman behind bars.

Since then, Catwoman has returned, but really only in the role of victim. She needs to be rescued by Batman in all three of her return engagements, though at least in “Almost Got ‘Im” she can boast that he was only returning the favor. It’s been a rather toothless portrayal for a character that should be able to stand on her own, be she thief or vigilante or something in between. And the show really couldn’t decide what she was. She’s basically another crime fighter in “Almost Got ‘Im” and I hypothesized during my write-up that she was shoe-horned into the role of Robin so that the episode could end with its punchline. Her character is left uninteresting by season one’s conclusion, and it’s clear she needs a fresh approach.

Enter Paul Dini. Dini did not receive a writing credit on any of Catwoman’s prior appearances, though as one of the credited show creators it’s likely he had some input on virtually every episode to air. This is his first real try at course-correcting the character and it’s one that is going to bring Catwoman back to her thieving roots. It’s a sorely needed direction, the only question being is the character worth salvaging at this point so late in the game?

sad selina

Selina misses her old life.

The episode opens at a museum exhibit. Selina Kyle (Adrienne Barbeau) is staring forlornly at a stuffed leopard and thinking back on her life as Catwoman. She’s basically bringing the audience up to speed while placing some of the blame on her Catwoman-less existence for the first time on Batman, a common sentiment amongst his many enemies. Bruce Wayne and Veronica Vreeland (Marilu Henner) are also attending the same function and approach Selina. Vreeland tries to make small talk by mentioning her grandfather donated much of the display, but that doesn’t sit well with Selina. She accuses Vreeland’s grandfather of hunting many of these animals to extinction. Suggesting this place isn’t for her, she leaves while Veronica and Bruce can only stare with mouths agape. Bruce catches up to her to admonish her for her rude behavior, but Selina seems to feel no shame or need to apologize for the cat in her. She thanks Bruce for inviting her along (Yup, he’s still barking up that tree, or maybe I should say scratching at that post), but tells him she doesn’t fit in here and takes her leave.

selina abducted

The gangster puppet is back again.

As Selina leaves a rather large individual grabs her and tosses her into an ominous black car. It’s Rhino (Earl Boen) who is apparently still in the employ of one Scarface. He and The Ventriloquist (George Dzundza) are free from Arkham. If they were released or escaped, it isn’t explained. Selina is quite amused by the talking dummy, but Scarface has a job for her. Or rather, a job for Catwoman. Scarface wants to steal from the Vreeland family, and he’s apparently aware of Selina’s feelings towards them. Either he was spying on her just now or his intuition is remarkable. Selina is unable to resist the urge to not only get back at the Vreeland family, but also to be Catwoman once again. She takes the job.

Catwoman returns to the museum and is able to sneak in undetected. As she goes for the jewels, a so-called business partner has other plans. It’s Scarface and his crew, and they’re making a brazen assault on the museum by detonating some explosives inside, which not only attract attention, but foil Catwoman’s escape. The security, and eventually police, key-in on Catwoman forcing her to make a daring escape while Scarface and his men have a much easier go of things. It’s obvious now Scarface only wanted to use Catwoman as a cover, but for what purpose we don’t know.

batman and selina

He sure looks smug.

Catwoman is able to make it back to Selina Kyle’s penthouse. There she has a visitor in the form of Batman. Nothing happens in this town without Batman knowing, and he seems concerned for Selina. She makes up a story about wanting to return to the museum to apologize for her behavior earlier, and finding a robbery in progress, she decided to infiltrate the building as Catwoman in a bid to stop the perpetrators. Batman is insistent that she tell her story to the proper authorities and the two return to the museum. Once there, Catwoman notices that some rare extinct animal mounts are missing and assumes that’s what Scarface was really after. Batman can tell she’s not revealing the full truth. And just like that, the old Catwoman is back. She attacks Batman with what may be a kick to the Wayne family jewels, but the angle makes it unclear. It’s a good kick though since it gives her some time to ascend onto what appears to be a blue whale suspended from the ceiling. Batman meets her there, and the two make a pretty big mess and Catwoman ultimately escapes. Batman flees to the roof and pulls out a tracking device – he apparently bugged the Catwoman.

fighting on a whale

It’s been awhile since we had a good Batman vs Catwoman confrontation.

With Batman out-of-the-way, Catwoman is free to zero-in on her new prey:  Scarface. He’s holed up with his men at a sawmill and when we check in on him he’s speaking on the phone to The Penguin about a bird mount he swiped. Also with him is a rare Tasmanian Tiger that is being billed as the last of its kind. Catwoman enters, but not entirely successfully as the guards take her out. She ends up in a cliché, unconscious on a conveyor belt heading towards a whirling saw-blade. This time it’s her cat Isis who makes the save by licking her face to bring her to consciousness. She rolls away just in time, but now has Scarface and his men to deal with. She’s outnumbered and having a tough go of things, but Batman soon arrives to even the odds. He takes on Rhino, while Catwoman goes after Scarface.

catwoman captured

The artists always seem to find a way to get a butt-shot into every Catwoman episode.

She corners the maniacal puppet and his “dummy,” The Ventriloquist, in the command room of the mill. Scarface apparently never got around to reacquiring an adorable, tiny, tommy gun because he’s unarmed and unable to really do anything when confronted by Catwoman. She snatches Scarface from The Ventriloquist and tosses him on to the same belt she was on minutes earlier. She seems to enjoy how The Ventriloquist begs and pleads with her to let him help his beloved Mr. Scarface, but she’s not going to let that happen. He turns his back to her and grabs the Tasmanian Tiger and hurls it at Catwoman. When she moves he races in and shuts down the machine sparing his boss’s “life.” This proves to be a brief reprieve as Catwoman just pulls a crane release that drops a bunch of logs onto the machine smashing it, and Scarface, in the process.

bye byre mr scarface

The animators at Dong Yang do a great job of making The Ventriloquist look pained throughout his confrontation with Catwoman.

As The Ventriloquist weeps Catwoman smiles gleefully, but then things take a turn. She confronts The Ventriloquist with claws exposed and starts tearing at his clothes. When he insists that he and Scarface are two different people, she just reminds him that Scarface is locked inside him and her thirst for revenge has apparently not been sated by merely crushing the dummy. By now, Batman has finished tangling with the likes of Rhino and is able to put a stop to this. Catwoman insists he cease his actions so she can take her revenge on The Ventriloquist for costing her her freedom. Batman reminds her she did it to herself, and when he asks why she insists because she couldn’t live without being Catwoman. By now, the wreckage of Scarface has caught fire somehow and Catwoman tosses the Tasmanian Tiger into the middle of it (a Hell of a throw). She tells Batman he can’t let it burn because it’s priceless and the last of its kind. He apparently agrees as he swings in and snatches the mount from the flames, but by doing so allows Catwoman to escape. We cut her to her perched on a building and a voiceover from Catwoman declares she’s a cat who walks alone.

catwoman alone

I find it interesting that the title card of this episode is essentially a mirror image of its closing shot.

And so we have Catwoman essentially brought back to where she was when this series started. The only difference is the whole world knows who she is so she can no longer live the swanky lifestyle enjoyed by Selina Kyle. How she’ll manage to get by as a criminal on the run is a tale left for another day. For what this is, it’s successful and I do prefer a Catwoman who is a villain of sorts as opposed to an ineffective vigilante, or whatever she was. It will be a challenge to integrate her further into Batman’s foes, but it’s better than what had become of the status quo. As for Scarface, his use here was suitable. Some liberties were taken this time with his performance as one scene featured The Ventriloquist using both of his hands to manipulate Scarface’s arms, while his mouth continued to flap away. He was seated in The Ventriloquist’s lap so maybe he found a creative way to utilize another appendage? My only real issue with Scarface is the unexplained nature of his arrival on the scene. I get that it would be tiresome to always see how the villains manage to escape Arkham, but a throw-away line about The Ventriloquist getting a clean bill of health would have sufficed.

Batman, once again, proves how poor he is at managing Catwoman. Perhaps it’s an intentional weakness by the writers as even Catwoman points out he lets her get too close. I’m not sure I buy the concluding scene where Batman opts to “save” a dead and stuffed animal rather than apprehend a criminal. My own take on the scene is that Batman really didn’t want to arrest Catwoman, and when given an out, he took it.

catwoman flirts

Batman always letting Catwoman get too close, and this time she calls him out on it.

This is a good-looking episode for Dong Yang. We get some new backgrounds and the museum is a fun setting for a little skirmish between hero and villain. The fight scene at the mill is perhaps brief, but visually entertaining. Batman and Rhino for a moment take on a slightly rubbery, toon look at times. It’s not a look I’d want for every episode, but when it pops-in here and there it’s a bit fun as most of this show is rather rigid. Best of all though, they did a really nice job during the scene where Catwoman is essentially torturing The Ventriloquist as he watches Scarface near another untimely demise. The Ventriloquist has no pupils, so it’s a challenge to make him convey emotion, but it’s done well here and I almost pity the man as a result. Catwoman, on the other hand, looks positively evil in her enjoyment of the whole thing. It’s actually refreshing to see her embrace her dark side and helps to sell the overall narrative of the episode.

“Catwalk” is a good return to form. It has a few stumbles, but nothing serious. It feels like a stepping stone for Catwoman, though unfortunately I’m not sure it really pays off. Catwoman will make another appearance before this season ends, but from what I recall it doesn’t really refer back to this episode (it doesn’t even feature Batman). The bulk of her additional time will be spent in The New Adventures of Batman where basically everyone feels like they received a reboot. And by then, Catwoman will practically be a different character, but that’s not the fault of this episode. For what it’s worth, this episode is probably the best depiction of the iconic feline the show has.


Batman: The Animated Series – “Tyger, Tyger”

Tyger_Tyger-Title_CardEpisode Number:  42

Original Air Date:  October 30, 1992

Directed by:  Frank Paur

Written by:  Michael Reaves, Randy Rogel, and Cherie Wilkerson

First Appearance(s):  Emile Dorian, Tygrus

A 65 episode order must feel like both a blessing and an unbearable burden. On one hand, that’s a big pay day. Plus 65 episodes also means syndication which is a pathway to even more riches. On the other hand, that’s suddenly 65 stories to be developed, 65 screen plays to be written, 65 story boards to be parsed through, not to mention the actual production. All of this is following what was likely months of work on a pilot and series bible so that everything was good to go for a successful pitch to the network. In the case of a property like Batman, at least there’s over 50 years worth of comic books to go through for ideas and few characters are created from scratch. No one wants to just adapt other people’s work though, so the bulk of the stories are mostly original. And they come with deadlines.

tyger03

I like the Garth from Wayne’s World better.

Such a daunting task is probably how you end up with an adaptation of The Island of Dr. Moreau in a Batman cartoon. Batman has always been one of the more grounded super heroes. His villains usually don’t possess actual super powers and instead are just mentally deranged individuals with wrestling gimmicks and henchmen. This series did establish right from the first episode that there can at least be room for some science fiction via mad scientist quackery. “Tyger, Tyger” doubles-down on that with Dr. Emile Dorian (Joseph Maher) who is basically a stand-in for old Dr. M. He’s a genetic scientist driven away from society because of his crazy ideas and crimes against nature. He’s also a big-time cat enthusiast, proving you really can’t trust those crazy cat folks (I say this as someone who has only ever had cats as pets). And since he’s a cat person, well obviously we’re going to need to bring in our old friend Catwoman, Selina Kyle (Adrienne Barbeau), to assist with this story.

TT_10_-_Selina_meets_Tygrus

Selina meet Tygrus, he’s going to be your mate!

The episode opens with Ms. Kyle visiting a zoo at night. It seems an odd thing to do, but she’s kind of an odd person. She’s looking mournfully at a tiger, a rather odd looking tiger at that, when someone from the trees behind her takes aim at her with a rifle and fires. The weapon is armed with some sort of dart, and after striking her the assailant bounds from the trees to claim his prey. He’s an ape man (voiced by Jim Cummings), and Selina tries putting up a fight, but is no match for the brute. A security guard comes to her aid, but he winds up in the tiger pen as a result while the ape-man makes off with Selina.

185023

Old friend Kirk Langstrom gets to make a cameo.

Bruce Wayne is shown waiting at a restaurant and his date is obviously late since he’s checking his watch. He phones home to see if his date, Selina, called Alfred to cancel (apparently Bruce can’t afford a 1992 cell phone). A member of the waitstaff lets him know that Selina called to say she was stopping by the zoo and would be late. He heads over there to find the crime scene. The cops are interviewing the guard who is obsessing over the ape man, and has really nothing to offer about Selina. Bruce finds a spent dart near the tiger pen (once again, the Gotham PD proves its incompetence) and brings it home for analysis.

Selina is shown a prisoner of a mad scientist – Dr. Emile Dorian. He’s all about cats and wants to experiment on her and turn her into some cat-lady. He thinks she’ll like it, but Selina seems less than thrilled.

Batman discovers the chemical compound contained in the dart is similar to the serum that turned Kirk Langstrom (Marc Singer) into the Man-Bat way back in episode number one, “On Leather Wings.” He brings a sample to Langstrom for confirmation, and the good doctor lets him know he’s correct. He hypothesizes that it’s the work of disgraced geneticist Dr. Emile Dorian and even shows Batman one of Dorian’s early experiments he just so happens to keep right there in the lab – a half cat, half monkey creature. He gives Batman a tip on where to find him, and Batman wastes no time in heading off to Dorian’s island.

TT_41_-_Cat-Woman

In this episode, Batman gets to see Selina naked. It’s not what he expected.

Once there, Batman finds a huge citadel-like structure and scales the wall 60s style. He’s met on the roof by Garth, the ape-man from earlier, and the two crash through the ceiling into the lab. It’s there he sees Selina, now in an enclosure. He’s horrified to see that she’s been transformed into a human-cat hybrid. Her entire body is covered in a mustard colored fur and she has claws and cat ears to match. She seems content, but Batman reacts violently and starts smashing the place to get at her. This attracts the attention of Dorian’s prized creation – Tygrus (Cummings). Unlike Selina, Tygrus was created “from scratch” and is a massive cat-man creature with sleek features and a barrel chest. He overpowers Batman, while Selina indicates she still has some humanity within her and reacts to the presence of her old crush.

Dorian informs Batman that Selina’s transformation is not yet complete. It can still be undone, but if Batman wants to do that he’ll have to defeat Tygrus. He sets the two loose, with Batman getting a head start, on his island. Tygrus is instructed by Dorian to kill Batman, and it looks like he has no issues obeying his father. Meanwhile, Dorian and Garth set out to administer the final component of the transformation formula to Selina, Dorian obviously having no intention of playing by his own rules.

TT_32_-_Dorian_and_Tygrus

Dorian and his “son,” Tygrus.

Batman is forced to duke it out with Tygrus who is a more than formidable foe. He is able to incapacitate the creature long enough to find out it can talk. Since it can talk, it can also be reasoned with. Batman is able to convince the rather dim creature that he’s not his enemy just because his father says he is, and the two return to the lab. By now, Selina has decided she doesn’t want to remain a cat and has broken away from Dorian. This sets up a confrontation where Tygrus is caught in between Dorian and the others. He wants Selina to stay and remain a cat (and he apparently intends to mate with her), but he’s apparently learned enough about consent and he isn’t going to force it upon her. This puts him into direct conflict with his father, and he ends up destroying the lab in a fiery explosion.

TT_64_-_Tygrus_Sacrifice

Imagine what they could have been.

Batman, Selina, and Garth escape, but there’s no sign of Tygrus or Dorian. At first. Tygrus soon emerges from the burning wreckage with Dorian in his arms. He lays him down at Batman’s feet with the hope that Batman will see to him. He makes one last play for Selina, and when she rejects a life as a cat, he quietly slips the antidote into her hands. She implores him to come with them, but he turns and remarks he doesn’t belong with them, or anywhere, and our episode ends on a somber note with Batman reciting a portion of the William Blake poem “The Tyger” as the episode fades out.

hqdefault-47

Tygrus bids us all a sad goodbye.

Even with the call back to the Man-Bat, there’s no shaking that this is a weird episode. It’s not an all together bad episode, it’s just not a favorite of mine. The story is kind of rushed, and Tygrus is easily persuaded into a noble role. I also don’t particularly care for his design, though the episode looks fine as a whole. Dorian is a simple villain with no redeeming qualities so the episode doesn’t have to work hard to get us to hate him. I would have liked to see more of his creations, but since what we did see was so visually uninteresting then maybe it’s fine we didn’t. Selina is again kind of mishandled by the show. She’s lost all touch with her Catwoman persona at this point and is in need of some serious rehabilitation. Worse, she’s been pushed into this damsel in distress role which is borderline insulting. Her cat look is kind of stupid, and I have no idea why they went with the color that they chose for her fur. I guess it helps to make her pop against the dark and drab backgrounds and it’s a similar shade to her hair color. It’s also fun to have veteran voice actor Jim Cummings play a large role in an episode, though he isn’t given a whole lot to work with.

What we’re left with is not a particularly good episode of Batman:  The Animated Series, and it’s in an odd place as three out of four episodes will feature a genetic engineering subplot. It’s an odd obsession for the show to settle on, but it’s also something that the show leaves behind. We won’t hear from Dorian or Tygrus again, and I’m not particularly broken up about that. Meanwhile, Selina Kyle will finally get to go back to being Catwoman in a few weeks, though once again in more of an anti-hero role as opposed to true foil. It will be awhile before we see her do anything remotely villainous again.


Batman: The Animated Series – “Cat Scratch Fever”

Cat_Scratch_Fever_Title_CardEpisode Number:  36

Original Air Date:  November 5, 1992

Directed by:  Boyd Kirkland

Written by:  Sean Catherine Derek, Buzz Dixon

First Appearance(s):  Professor Milo

 

After watching so many episodes of Batman:  The Animated Series some patterns start to become obvious. A typical episode is split into two main parts: the discovery phase and the climactic confrontation between Batman and the villain of the day. Sometimes the episodes are uneven with one end of the episode not able to hold its own weight. Most of the time they’re both perfectly fine, but sometimes you get an episode where neither half really works, which brings me to “Cat Scratch Fever.” Aside from the fact that the title invokes unpleasant thoughts of Ted Nugent, in a Batman context it certainly brings to mind a certain woman, a cat woman, if you will. After a pretty lengthy layoff, we’re finally going to check-in with Selina Kyle (Adrienne Barbeau) and see what she’s up to while also getting a look at Roland Dagget’s latest scheme. This is also a noteworthy episode because it’s the final one animated by Akom. Akom was a frequent player in television animation. Based out of Korea, they would get a contract for work and often outsource it to other studios of varying quality (they famously did some rather shoddy work on X-Men’s pilot) and as a result they’ve produced some great episodes of animated television and some not so great, this episode being of the not so great variety which lead to their dismissal from the series.

Cat_Scratch_Fever_Trial

Selina facing the music.

The episode opens with Ms. Kyle at a hearing concerning the events of “The Cat and the Claw.” If you need a refresher, Catwoman and Batman foiled the plans of Red Claw who could have unleashed devastation on Gotham City if not for their intervention. Her heroic deeds did not score her many points with Batman however, as following the defeat of Red Claw Batman still placed her in handcuffs for petty burglary. This was a case of the show trying to have Batman be stoic in his attitude towards the law – it’s not for him to decide if Catwoman should be punished, but the court. It’s hypocritical considering Batman breaks the law all of the time with forced entry and witness intimidation. It’s why he’s a vigilante after all, so he can operate above the law. Thankfully our unnamed judge here (played by Virginia Capers) sees things my way as she gives Selina probation on the condition that she never dawn her Catwoman costume to commit crimes (so I guess she’s free to break the law out of costume?).

maxresdefault-27

A friend to cats everywhere.

An elated Selina returns home to her penthouse apartment and her assistant Maven is still there. We don’t know how much time has passed between appearances, but it seems like this is the first time Selina is home even though I would think she would have been able to post bail. Anyway, Maven informs her that her precious kitty Isis is missing and she supposes the cat went out looking for Selina, so Selina goes out looking for Isis. Deciding against dressing as Catwoman, she’s just plain old Selina. While looking for Isis, she stumbles upon a couple of hoodlums out collecting strays. They’re not with the pound, and Selina suspects the worst of them. Jessy (Denny Dillon) and Paunch (who isn’t voiced) are the two goons and they put up a fight. When things look like they’re going bad for Selina, guess who shows up. With Batman’s help, the two are put away effortlessly (the animation is careful to make sure Batman doesn’t strike the female thug, Jessy), but before Selina can thank him properly, Batman runs off as the police arrive. Finding a recently released individual like Selina Kyle in such a situation naturally prompts the arriving officers to bring her to the precinct, but Selina’s other knight in shining armor is there to bail her out.

Bruce and Alfred pick up Selina, who politely declines the advances of Bruce. She mentions the two thugs were quickly bailed out by Roland Dagget, which is a pretty good lead not just for Batman, but Catwoman as well. She somehow figures out that whatever is going on with the stray cat population is coming from a specific Dagget owned laboratory on the outskirts of Gotham. Inside, we get a peek at Dagget (Ed Asner) himself discussing some plans with a Professor Milo (Treat Williams, who I would have bet money on was Rob Paulsen) who has devised a rather nasty toxin. The toxin is placed into an animal which seems to cause the animal to react as if it’s rabid (he demonstrates on a dog). Their plan is to infect the stray animal population, which will in turn cause the disease to spread to humans, and then Dagget can sell the only cure for a rather tidy profit. We also see Isis is among the captured animals, and she’s Milo’s next specimen.

Cat_Scratch_Fever_Bite

Bad kitty!

When Catwoman enters the lab she finds it’s dark and quiet. She quickly locates her beloved cat and frees her from her cage. Isis at first seems docile, but she quickly turns on Catwoman and bites her, then flees out an open window. The thugs, Jessy and Paunch return along with Milo and Catwoman is forced to flee. Milo takes note of the bite wound she received and lets his cohorts know they don’t need to pursue aggressively as the toxin will do the work for them. And sure enough, Catwoman is rather woozy and off-balance almost right away. She discards her mask and collapses in the snow as Isis runs off.

Cat_Scratch_Fever

Paging Dr. Batman.

Elsewhere, Bruce Wayne has done some sleuthing on his own to figure out what the Dagget connection could be. Lucius Fox (Brock Peters) is able to provide some important info about a new drug Dagget is believed to be developing and no one knows what it’s for (the dialogue in this scene is very similar to another Dagget episode “Appointment in Crime Alley,” so much so that it had to be intentional though it could have also just been lazy writing). Batman heads out to investigate, which is a good thing since he finds Selina collapsed in the snow. He takes her to a nearby shack, of sorts, where she gets him up to speed on what happened before taking a little rest.

While Batman is busy tending to Selina, Dagget is getting impatient with the progress being made. He orders Milo to commence with the operation, while he explains he’s just waiting on Paunch to fetch some of the anti-toxin from another lab in case anything goes wrong. Unfortunately for Paunch, he’s going to run into Batman while he’s out doing Milo’s bidding. Batman was hoping to get some info out of Paunch, but he picked the wrong guy considering he’s mute and all. Still, Selina shared enough information with him to figure out Dagget’s scheme, but just in case he didn’t, Dagget and Jessy show up to confirm his suspicions (Dagget, like many villains, just can’t help himself).

15-4

Not the most fearsome trio, but left to right is Milo, Jessy, and Paunch.

Batman is going to be forced to deal with the likes of Paunch and Jessy, who are now armed with machine-guns, as well as the infected dog from earlier. The show is careful to not show Batman being too mean to the dog, he’ll use his cape and wits to subdue him before embarking on a “super fun happy slide” of his own through the snow. Paunch and Jessy confront him on a frozen lake, and their guns are able to cause a huge mess of things. Batman goes through the ice, but of course he isn’t down for good and ends up subduing the brutes. He’s able to utilize the anti-toxin on Selina, as well as our poor canine friend.

The episode ends with Selina back at home. Maven informs her that she’s being hailed a hero once again for her part in stopping Dagget’s plot, and this time it sounds like Dagget won’t escape justice as he’s under investigation for his role in the whole thing. Selina should be happy, but she never found Isis and she’s despondent over her still missing cat. As she sees Maven out, a basket is lowered in the background from the roof of her building containing her precious kitty. It would seem Batman knows how to make a romantic gesture, and best of all, Isis has been cured of the toxin. The episode ends with Selina lovingly hugging the cute little cat.

CSF_46_-_Batmobile-2

The episode mostly looks rather subpar, but it has its moments.

Your enjoyment of this episode likely hinges on how big an animal lover you are. I like them as much as most people, I suppose. I’ve had a cat all my life and when this episode aired I even had a little black cat like Isis myself. Even so, the whole poisoning of animals does little for me, and Professor Milo seems kind of cartoonishly evil. Jessy is especially annoying, but I suppose that’s by design. The whole scheme seems small and kind of odd, but I suppose it’s unique. The episode also re-establishes that Selina has a thing for Batman and only Batman, while Bruce lusts after her. By the conclusion, she’s also pushed to the sideline with an uncertain role going forward. She’s not really a villain, but does she have it in her to be some sort of vigilante on equal footing with Batman? The show will do a rather poor job with her from here on out, even the show runners have agreed as much.

What really can’t be denied is how crummy this episode looks. Character models are inconsistent and the facial details, in particular with Selina, look off-model at times. The effects on the infected dog are poor as well, with the foam/drool basically being the same color as the dog’s fur. I do appreciate the sort of rugged appearance of Jessy, though Paunch is so cartoonish he almost looks like he’s not from this series. He kind of reminds me of a Popeye character, or something. If I can give the visuals one compliment, it’s the the snowy scenery looks pretty good and it’s a nice change of pace from the usual visuals.

The only real noteworthy aspect of this episode is it reintroduces Catwoman, and also introduces a villain who will at least make a future appearance in Professor Milo. Milo isn’t exactly an A-list villain, but at least the episode does directly deal with the fall-out of a previous episode where Catwoman is concerned. It’s not one I was particularly excited to revisit, and one I won’t likely watch again anytime soon.


Batman: The Animated Series – “The Cat and the Claw – Part I”

Cat_and_Claw-Title_CardEpisode Number:  15

Original Air Date:  September 5, 1992

Directed by:  Kevin Altieri

Written by:  Sean Catherine Derek and Laren Bright

First Appearance(s):  Catwoman, Red Claw

This may be episode number 15, but it’s actually the very first episode of Batman: The Animated Series by air date. Airing as a special prime time sneak peak, “The Cat and the Claw – Part One” featured the debut of a very popular Batman foil – the not so villainous Catwoman. Like The Penguin, Catwoman was fresh off of starring in Batman Returns where she was played by Michelle Pfeiffer. Also like The Penguin, Catwoman was a regular on the Batman television series from the 1960s and was a featured villain in Batman: The Movie. In terms of Batman adversaries, few were as well known to audiences as Catwoman.

Catwoman_BTASUnlike The Penguin and Joker, Catwoman was not made an existing villain in this series. This episode marks her debut to both the television audience and to this version of Batman as well. They have never crossed paths before their meeting here, though one gets the impression that Catwoman has been up to this sort of thing for quite some time. She’s quite good at getting around and breaking and entering and even has little cat-shaped caltrops to make use of. Her outfit is very similar to Batman’s and I suppose that’s intentional. She even has a yellow-gold belt. Really, the only difference is she lacks a cape. This version of Catwoman is less an adversary and more another aspect of how Batman could operate. While he may be a vigilante out to do what’s right while largely adhering to the law of the land, Catwoman plays more fast and loose with the law and is willing to break it, going as far as thievery, if the ends are justified by the means. Batman’s ultimate goal is also to help the good people of Gotham by reducing crime, where as Catwoman is basically an animal rights activist who may or not prefer animals (in particular, cats) to people.

The episode opens with Catwoman (Adrienne Barbeau) out on the prowl. She’s after something and we get a look at how she operates. At her side is her trusty cat Isis whom has been trained to infiltrate locations and even deactivate traps. Catwoman is after a diamond necklace, but she attracts the attention of our hero. She and Batman have a playful little chase and it’s impressed upon us almost immediately that the Batman ignites something within Catwoman. Catwoman is able to elude Batman, in part because he stopped to save her precious cat from becoming roadkill. He seems willing to let her off and try another time.

291

Attaboy Bruce!

The Batman/Catwoman dynamic isn’t anything new, and it’s not surprising to see them go this route. Also not surprising, is that Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle, Catwoman’s real life persona, are destined to meet. Wayne is attending a charity auction where a date with Gotham’s most eligible bachelors is what’s up for bid. Kyle grossly outbids the other ladies for the services of Bruce and he’s immediately smitten with the blond bombshell. Kyle is disinterest though, as she was only doing it for the charity which is an animal charity. We’re given insight into Catwoman’s motivations for her thievery. Rather than enriching herself, it would seem her aim is a bit like Robin Hood (in her mind), though instead of giving to the poor she’s donating to animal rights groups.

Before Bruce and Selina can formalize plans for their date, that Bruce insists upon having, gunfire is heard and Batman is forced to spring into action (this seems to happen a lot to poor Bruce). Batman has to deal with some terrorists, and upon doing so is informed by Commissioner Gordon that a terrorist known as Red Claw is believed to be operating in Gotham.

batman-the-animated-series-season-1-episode-15-the-cat-and-the-claw-part-1

They would make for a nice looking couple.

The next day, Bruce shows up for his date just as Selina is informed by her lawyer that a proposed sanctuary for large cats is being acquired by a corporation that intends to bulldoze the preserve and put up a resort. Selina is irate, but Bruce happens to know the CEO of the corporation, Multigon International, and arranges a face-to-face between he and Selena. It’s fruitless, and Selina storms out angry alongside Bruce. As they leave, Red Claw appears to inform the CEO of Multigon, Stern, to keep an eye on Ms. Kyle. Red Claw is somewhat shadowed but we see Red Claw (Kate Mulgrew) is actually a woman and a pretty tough looking one at that.

The-Cat-And-The-Claw-Pt-1-batman-the-animated-series-16815876-540-405

Sort of forgotten in the debut of Catwoman is the real villain of the episode – Red Claw.

Selina and Bruce agree to end their date prematurely, since she’s not much in the mood following their meeting with Stern, and agree to try again tomorrow. That night, Catwoman returns to Multigon to do some sleuthing. She’s able to get in, but not undetected. Soon she’s swarmed by guards and manages to reach the rooftop only to find herself in a precarious situation on the edge of the building. Naturally, Batman is there to make the save. They have another playful exchange, though Batman gets serious with her and demands she unmask. Catwoman feigns being hurt by Batman’s rejection, which causes Batman to react sympathetically giving Catwoman an opening to flip him over her shoulder and escape.

Back at her apartment, Selina boasts to her assistant Maven that the night was a success, but we’re soon shown an individual affiliated with Red Claw has traced her back to her apartment. He utters an ominous warning for us, the viewers, before the episode ends.

Isis_cat

Isis is a bit of a scene-stealer.

The first part of “The Cat and the Claw” successfully introduces us to this version of Catwoman and the role she’ll play in Batman’s rogues gallery. Her intentions are mostly good, but her means are unlawful. You could argue Batman’s are as well since he routinely sneaks into places he’s not welcome and performs search and seizures outside of the law, but Catwoman’s willingness to steal is apparently the line for Batman. The little we see of Red Claw, a villain created for this show, depicts her as a pretty ruthless terrorist and we’ll have to wait for Part Two to see just how far she can be pushed. This show seems to clearly love having sympathetic villains, so this turn for Catwoman isn’t too surprising. She bares no real resemblance to the character we had just seen in Batman Returns, aside from the general look of her costume and whip accessory. I am left wanting to see more of the Selina character. I’d like to know more about what brought her to where she is, but we’re never really going to get that from this show unfortunately. I also do like the dynamic at play with Batman where Catwoman clearly has the hots for the caped crusader while Batman knows he needs to keep his distance. That’s in contrast to Bruce Wayne’s obvious interest in Selina Kyle, while she seems completely uninterested in Bruce as a potential partner. It’s not a unique setup, but it is effective at creating some drama. It’s also easy to see why this was picked as the premiere, because in addition to the familiar villain, the episode also looks great. Lots of sharp blacks and great animation, especially with Catwoman’s adorable little cat Isis. We’ll have to wait for Part Two to see how this all plays out.


%d bloggers like this: